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What if we were to give a certification to European animation?

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Marc Vandeweyer • General director, Cartoon

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- Cineuropa caught up with Marc Vandeweyer, the director general of Cartoon, who stressed the importance for European animation of turning the spotlight on the creators behind it

Marc Vandeweyer • General director, Cartoon

With 14% more participants than last year, with 850 participants from 41 countries, and 55 projects pitched with budgets ranging from €3 million to €13 million, you could say that the 2017 edition of Cartoon Movie was a success. And when you look at the eight projects that audiences liked most: Zombillenium (Maybe Movies, Belvision), Le Grand Méchant Renard (Folivari, StudioCanal, Panique!), Miss Saturne (Prima Linea, Artemis, Fortiche), The Wolfwalkers (Cartoon Saloon), Calamity (Sacrebleu, Maybe Movies), The Prince’s Journey (Blue Spirit), Kensuke’s Kingdom (Lupus Films, Melusine, Jingsaw Films, Spirit Base) and Charlotte (Les Productions Balthazar, Walking The Dog, January Films, Les Films du Poisson Rouge, Folimage), European animations have nothing to be ashamed of in the face of their American competitors. There is a range of graphic styles and the stories themselves are rich, with tales ranging from childhood to adulthood. Diversity is the keyword of this industry, which nonetheless has yet to find its wider (and more niche) audience.

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After these two days of intense networking between producers, distributors and sales agents, Cineuropa caught up with Marc Vandeweyer, the director general of Cartoon. He stressed the importance, for European animation, of turning the spotlight on the creators behind it.

Cineuropa: How is the animation industry in Europe doing?
Marc Vandeweyer:
It’s doing well. There are a lot of productions being made and studios are working at full capacity. I feel like every year in Europe there are more and more feature films being made, between 30 and 40 a year, which is a lot. Then add all the TV series being made into the mix… Animation studios are finding it harder and harder to find graphic artists! Moreover, nowadays producers try to hold onto their workers.

"In-house production", is this something you hear from producers?
Yes, increasingly. Especially in France, as the country has changed the law in such a way that it’s now more advantageous to repatriate workers. So if there are young people out there who are talented and interested in pursuing a career in art and graphics, they have to enrol in the right schools. There’s a real industry for it these days! The video games and animation industries.

Nonetheless we can see that there isn’t always much of an audience for animation, are you sure you’re not living in a sort of bubble?
No, as we’re seeing increasing levels of demand too, there are different modes of consumption. People go to the cinema but they also watch films and programmes in other ways too. I don’t think we’re living in a bubble.

Other modes of consumption, like video on demand for example?
Yes, we’re inviting more and more SVOD distributors to the festival, so that they can come and discover a style of animation they may not have been familiar with before, and there’s a lot of interest, as European animations are of high quality. Producers and directors have reached maturity, they know what they’re doing. They’re more creative, more daring, they play with different styles of graphics. Take My Life as a Zucchini [+see also:
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]
, for example: who would dare to do that? We have bold and daring creators in Europe. There are some films that work better than others, as they are built on models, but the same goes for American films. Why do you think two of the five animated films nominated at the Oscars were European ? There are signs out there that we have to learn to read and be proud of. They are proof that the quality is there.

Looking towards the future, what still needs to be done?
We are currently in talks with the European Commission[1] on what the animation sector needs. I think it’s crucial that we invest in the promotion and marketing of films. The films being made are good, original and creative, but the wider public doesn’t know that, so that’s where we need to focus our energies. Audiences are somewhat conditioned by the American industry, by 3D films and Disney. They go to see those films, but they should be curious to try different things. It’s up to us at Cartoon, the press, and all European professionals to reflect on this subject. We have to find the right angle, it’s quite a challenge. They succeeded very well in this with My Life as a Zucchini. The teaser, which is very funny, set everything off on the right foot: here at Cartoon, then with the wider public. And as the film was a success, including with the press, it worked! And when it works with animation, it really works, as there’s money to be made in this industry.

So do audiences need to be better educated about animation?
That’s up to the press. And producers. The Americans do it very well. It’s also up to the sellers to convince people, to find other arguments to use to persuade them.

***

After his press conference, Marc Vandeweyer made an appeal to the Cannes Film Festival to take more European animation projects. Watch this space…


[1] In December 2016, the European Commission launched a round of discussions with professionals to come up with an action plan for animation between then and mid-2017. This action plan would involve short-term measures and initiatives as part of the next MEDIA programme (2021-2027).

(Translated from French)

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